Asia's Best Players Rise to the Top

Player of the Year 2022-2033 - Asia's Finest Rise to The Top

Having shone bright for club and country, the six foremost stellar performers in Asia have been recognised for their efforts with nominations for the most prestigious accolade of the AFC Annual Awards Doha 2022.

Mathew Leckie, Almoez Ali and Salem Al Dawsari will vie for the AFC Player of the Year prize, while Samantha Kerr, Zhang Linyan and Saki Kumagai are in contention for the AFC Women's Player of the Year trophy.

The affirmations reward their outstanding displays between January 2022 and May 2023, which have thrilled the Continent's passionate fans and showcased the world-class ability of Asian players.


Mathew Leckie (Melbourne City and AUS) 


For the first time in 16 years, Australia reached the Knockout Stage of a FIFA World Cup after they defeated Denmark in their final Group Stage fixture at the 2022 edition.

That was achieved thanks to a clinical finish on the break by Leckie, whose strike was the only goal of the game and sealed a Round of 16 berth at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 to match the Socceroos' best ever finish from 2006.

That capped a fine 2022 for the Melbourne native, who had enjoyed his best A-League scoring season by netting nine times for Melbourne City and adding four assists as they were crowned Premiers.

The forward, 32, continued to be influential as they retained the Premiership in the following campaign to make it three in a row.

Almoez Ali (Al Duhail SC and QAT) 


The 2022/23 season saw Ali surpass the 200-game mark in all competitions for Al Duhail SC, for whom he remains as influential as ever since arriving in 2016.

The 27-year-old helped the Red Knights to reclaim the Qatar Stars League crown, their eighth in the competition's history – joint-second most of any club – and first since the 2019/20 campaign. It sealed a 12th consecutive qualification for the AFC Champions League – the longest streak by any team.

The electric and clinical forward also played his part as Al Duhail picked up three more trophies – the 2022 Qatar Amir Cup, 2022/23 Qatari Stars Cup and 2023 Qatar Cup – to complete a remarkable domestic quadruple.

On the Continental stage, Ali contributed two goals and two assists in their run to the Semi-finals of the AFC Champions League™ 2022 – their best ever finish.

An indispensable part at the international level for Qatar, Ali became his country's joint all-time top scorer with his 42nd goal in November 2022 and featured at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on home soil.

Salem Al Dawsari (Al Hilal SFC and KSA) 

Saudi Arabia.

Long established as one of the brightest stars in Asia, Al Dawsari enjoyed a sensational 2022 for both club and country.

The 32-year-old forward's brilliant winning strike against eventual champions Argentina at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will live long in the memories of football fans, as it sealed a stunning upset for Saudi Arabia. Al Dawsari went on to equal the legendary Sami Al Jaber's record of three FIFA World Cup goals for the country by scoring against Mexico.

He was in irrepressible form for Al Hilal SFC as well, playing a pivotal role in their 2021/22 Saudi Pro League and 2022/23 King's Cup triumphs. Al Dawsari also struck four goals and notched three assists in eight matches in the AFC Champions League™ 2022, where the Blue Waves finished as runners-up.

That was on top of another sparkling display on the global stage at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2022 – two goals and an assist in a 3-2 Semi-final win over Brazil's Flamengo saw Al Hilal become the first ever Saudi Arabian side to reach the competition's Final.


Samantha Kerr (Chelsea FC and AUS) 


A global icon, Kerr surpassed the legendary Tim Cahill to become Australia's all-time top scorer – men or women – during the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022™ in style by scoring five times in one match to eclipse the previous mark of 50 and eventually end up with the Golden Boot.

The 30-year-old striker, who was the 2017 AFC Women's Player of the Year, finished third in the 2022 Ballon d'Or awards and fourth for the Best FIFA Women's Player Award.

The prolific Kerr was also instrumental at the club level for Chelsea FC in the 2022/23 season, plundering 30 goals – taking her overall tally to 90 for the Blues – and adding seven assists across all competitions.

Her scintillating form helped the Blues win a fourth straight league title and third consecutive FA Cup, in addition to reaching the last four of the UEFA Women's Champions League 2022/23.

Zhang Linyan (Guangzhou Women's/Wuhan Women's FC/Grasshopper Club Zurich and CHN) 


An exciting prospect, Zhang made her mark at the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022™ as the youngest squad member of China PR during their record-extending ninth triumph.

The clinical forward scored her maiden international goal in memorable fashion, netting the crucial equaliser against Korea Republic in a thrilling Final that saw the Steel Roses overturn a two-goal deficit to prevail 3-2 and win their first title since 2006.

Zhang continued to impress at the club level for Chinese Women's Super League side Wuhan Women's FC and earned a loan move to Grasshopper Club Zurich.

In her debut European season, the 22-year-old scored eight times and made four assists in both league and cup to help her new team finish third in the regular season and reach the Swiss Cup last eight.

Saki Kumagai (FC Bayern Munich and JPN)


The AFC Women's Player of the Year in 2019, Kumagai could make it back-to-back wins in Doha.

The Japanese legend, 32, featured prominently for FC Bayern Munich in their successful quest for a fourth Bundesliga title, adding to a bulging trophy cabinet that has made her one of Asia's most decorated players, male or female.

A classy and composed defender who is equally at home in midfield, Kumagai is an indispensable part of the Nadeshiko squad; she has moved into their top five for most international appearances and skippered Japan to the Semi-finals at the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022™.

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